Why me?

When something bad happens, many people’s first reaction is “Why me?” This is not a genuine question but a rhetorical one; it’s a statement that what happened was unfair and undeserved. As long as we stay in this place of complaining that things are not as they should be, we remain stuck and unhappy.

However, happiness researchers once did an experiment in which they asked people to write about a painful experience in their past. Those who were asked to write about how the event happened reported feeling more miserable after recalling the event. Not surprising – they had dredged up and re-experienced the whole thing.

But those who were asked to explain why the incident happened felt better afterwards. The reason seems to be that they approached the task with a different thought process. Rather than emotionally re-experiencing the event, they used their intellect to try to understand what the causes were. This had the effects of: a) making the event more specific to a set of circumstances rather than something that could happen any time; and b) gave them ideas about how to avoid it happening again. In effect, the exercise helped people learn the lessons inherent in the experience.

There is never a definitive answer to the question ‘why?’ An event has thousands of antecedents, any of which can be deemed as a cause. But often we can point to specific factors that might make sense of why something happened. If these factors are within our sphere of influence, we can determine not to let them happen again; if not, we can decide to simply accept them.

So next time you find yourself asking, “why me?” try seriously attempting to answer the question.


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